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Lets's Face It, Some Things Are Just Better...
Miracle Whip is better than mayonnaise. Bacon is better than sausage. Milk chocolate is better than dark chocolate. Prime rib is better than steak… you get the idea. OK, so you might be saying, “Hold up a second there fella, I think dark chocolate is better than milk chocolate.” You might not agree, and that’s fine because this list is a bunch of subjective opinions. While we might not all agree on the above statements, we can, and should, all agree on one thing, that rear-facing is safer than forward-facing.
We don’t need to say much more about this, to be honest, it’s not even debatable. The safest way to ride in any car is rear-facing, heck, if you could ride rear-facing, you should!
Now for that one troublemaker out there, there’s always one isn’t there? Watch the quick video below. Everything is identical, the only difference is the car seat is installed forward-facing on the right and rear-facing on the left. The graph measures the impulse force seen on the dummy skull throughout the crash. In the forward-facing test, the dummy’s skull saw a maximum crash force of almost 1200 Newtons!! Now, remember back to physics class and convert 1200 Newtons to pound-force and you get? OK, we had to look it up too. 1200 Newtons is around 300 pounds of impulse force on the base of the dummy’s skull! That could be your child! Now take a look at the rear-facing graph, convert and we find the maximum impulse force seen during the crash is a around 80 pounds of force. Quite a difference. What position would your rather your child be in? Mic drop.
Just So You’re Aware
People wonder how we as CPSTs form the recommendations that we provide to families. We already talked about the NHTSA and the AAP in the Selection section, now we need to touch on best practice. Best practice is the absolute safest way to do things, the gold standard, so to speak. Whenever we make a recommendation we always start with best practice first. So it’s only natural that we as CPST love rear-facing.
Is The Night Time Really The Right Time?
A question we get a lot is, “So when is the right time to turn my child around?” While we can give you our recommendations, that’s a personal decision that you’ll have to make on your own. We as CPSTs are here to advise you about best practice and help you implement the choices that you make.
Don’t get us wrong, we really want you to rear face your child as long as possible. Still, we realize that different families have different circumstances, and there is no “one size fits all” approach. We really want your child to make it to 30 pounds rear-facing, if you can hit 35, we’ll celebrate and if you can hit 40, we might explode!
We are also here to help parents with the transition from rear-facing to forward-facing. Click HERE if you’re ready to turn your child around and you’d like some help, it would be our pleasure.
Safety Step 2
Once your child has reached the maximum height or weight of their rear-facing seat, or you as their parent or caregiver decide that it’s time to turn them around, it’s time to forward face. Depending on the type of seat you used for rear-facing, this might be as easy as a few quick adjustments to your existing seat if it’s a convertible, and re-installing. If you used an infant-only seat for rear-facing then it’s going to be time to purchase a new seat and a convertible or combination seat will fit the bill nicely. We would recommend a convertible seat first because we could probably rear face your child a bit longer, and as we hope you’ve gathered, we’re big fans of rear-facing.
Whatever route you go, make sure your harness game is on point and your install is wicked tight, then you are are ready to begin transporting your child forward-facing.
OK, We’re Now Forward Facing, What’s Next?
Much like Safety Step 1, we want to keep your child in Safety Step 2, forward-facing with a harness, as long as possible. For many seats on the market, this means up to 65 pounds, and we recommend you use it as close to the weight or height limit as possible. The next step is Safety Step 3, which is under a seatbelt in a booster seat. While this is a perfectly safe option for kiddos at a certain age, a 5 point harness is simply safer. There’s a reason race car drivers wear 5 point harnesses and not standard seat belts. So, let’s keep your kiddo in a harness as long as possible.
Time For Some Tough Love
Some of you may have heard some noise on the internet about Evenflo. They are being sued by a family over one of their booster seats. If you haven’t, to sum it up, the Evenflo Big Kid Booster Seat has a listed weight range from 30 to 110 pounds. A family back east put their 37-pound daughter in a booster seat, believing it to be a safe option for their child. They were involved in a horrible wreck and their daughter suffered an internal decapitation. The story is absolutely horrific all the way around and we cried when we read it.
First off, Evenflo isn’t the only car seat manufacturer that labels their booster seat as safe down to 30 pounds. In many crashes, a smaller child would be just fine in a booster seat. Still, in the most severe collisions, including the one we talked about above, the child would have been much safer in a harness. What we as CPSTs hope to see come from this horrible incident is car seat manufacturers getting together and raising their minimum weight for booster usage. Canada currently has a 40-pound minimum weight limit on all booster sold in their country, there’s no reason we can’t too.
Below is a video of a side crash test comparison of a child in a booster seat versus a child in a 5 point harness in a mid-speed side-impact crash. We can write all we want about the reasons to keep your child in a harness, but we think watching the two videos side by side will probably be more effective. This video is the reason we want your child harnessed, and iun safety step 2, as long as possible!
Great Minds Think Alike
We agree entirely with the APP’s recommendations to rear face as long as possible up to the maximum height or weight of your child’s seat. Each seat has it’s own height and weight maximums and minimums. When you worked through our selection section, you probably remember that most infant seats rear to face up to 20-35 pounds and convertibles rear face up to 35 to 50 pounds. If you didn’t work through our selection section, check it out by clicking HERE. Some seats on the market will have higher limits, some lower, these are just general guidelines. Always check your car seats owners manual or refer to the information stickers that should be present on your car seat.
Safety Step 1
As we’re sure you remember from the selection section, Safety Step 1 encompasses all rear-facing car seats, infant or convertible. We want to maximize the amount of time your child spends in each step before moving up to the next. Remember, every step up is a step down in safety. Now we didn’t say that a step up is unsafe, it’s just less safe compared to the step before it. However, as kids grow and get bigger, their bodies begin to go through changes. Their head gets smaller relative to their body size, their bones begin to ossify and get harder, their muscles develop and so on. As kids age, their bodies are more able to readily handle the potential stresses that are present in an automobile crash. This is why we want to maximize the amount of time your child spends in Safety Step 1. By the time they’re ready for Safety Step 2, their bodies will be stronger and more able to handle a collision forward-facing. It’s a delicate balancing act, and we want to stack the deck in your child’s favor as much as possible.
What is Extended Rear-Facing?
A popular trend these days are seats that offer parents the option to rear face their child longer, also called extended rear-facing. These seats can rear face children up to 50 pounds, a significant increase from the usual 35 to 40 pounds. If you’re interested in a seat that offers you the option to extended rear face, we’ve compiled a list of current seats below that offer this feature.
- Clek Foonf & FlloClek Fllo
- Cybex Eternis X
- Diono Rainier 2AXT & Radian 3RXT
- Evenflo Everystage DLX
- Graco Extend2Fit & Extend2Fit 3-in-1
- Nuna Exec & Rava
- Safety 1st Grow and Go EX 3-in-1
What About Their Legs!?!?
A question we get all the time when we’re talking with parents about extended rear-facing is, “My child’s legs are on the back of the seat,” or maybe they’re even crossed, “Is this safe?” We’re the first to admit that rear-facing a 6-year-old can look kind of goosey and strange. Older children DO have a greater chance of sustaining a lower extremity injury in the event of a crash. Still, we as CPSTs are just fine with this. WHAT!?! you say? “You’re OK with the apple of my eye being at a higher risk of a broken leg or torn tendon?” Our answer as CPSTs is “Yep.” You see, we can fix broken legs and torn tendons, sprains and strains heal. We’ll take any of those injuries all day over an internal decapitation, or other spinal cord injuries, and we’re sure you would too.
Let’s Sum It Up
So, to sum this all up, keep your child rear-facing as long as possible, it really is much safer for them. Be that parent. Annoy your children. They’ll still love you. We promise. If you need any help, come see us. We’re pros at explaining it to children and playing the bad guy. Let us be your scapegoat. We’re OK with it because it means your child will be safer!